I sing the praises of the sheet cake for big holiday and family gatherings. Sure, they are not showstoppers like tiered and layered confections artfully piped and swirled. They aren’t tabletop sculptures like molded Bundt cakes. But they are easy to make, easy to serve and feed a ravenous crowd. And for a busy Thanksgiving feast, what more could you want? I go full Southern here, with a simple, moist cake that tastes mainly of wonderful sweet potato with a classic caramel icing poured over, with just a hit of bourbon. That’s all I need, but you could certainly decorate with sprinkles or candies or whatnot. If you are tasked with bringing dessert, transporting a sheet cake is worry-free. No fears of tipping over or sliding of the plate.
For ease, I use canned sweet potato puree, like this, which I find at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts or the Fresh Market. If you can’t find it, simple microwave a whole large or two medium sweet potatoes until soft and puree them in a food processor with a splash of water until very smooth – the texture of canned pumpkin puree. Do not use canned yams in syrup. Start making the icing about fifteen minutes before the cake is finished and pour it slowly over the cake as soon as you take it from the oven. Do sift the confectioners’ sugar to prevent lumps.
Sweet Potato Sheet Cake with Caramel Icing
12 – 16servings
- For the Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15-ounce) can sweet potato puree or 2 cups
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
- For the Icing
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon bourbon
¼ cup buttermilk or heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- For the Cake
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 18 by 13 half sheet pan with baking spray.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, oil, sweet potato puree and eggs until well combined (you can do this in a stand mixer or by hand). Combine the flour, baking soda, spice and salt in a small bowl, then stir into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined and no streaks of dry ingredients are available. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out to an even layer (an offset spatula works great here). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Start making the icing when the cake has cooked for 15 minutes so it is ready to go.
- For the Icing
- Cut the butter into pieces and put it and the brown sugar and bourbon in a medium saucepan, preferably one with a pouring spout. Heat over medium high heat, stirring until the butter has melted, then bring to a boil. Stir on the buttermilk or cream and bring back to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and sifted powdered sugar until completely combined. As soon as you take the cake from the oven, slowly pour the icing over the top. You can tilt the pan to spread it evenly or use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Working quickly, make sure the icing is evenly spread over the entire surface of the cake. Leave to cool completely.
The cake can be made one day ahead, covered and kept at room temperature.